Carlow might be the second smallest county in Ireland but it doesn’t fall short of awe-inspiring experiences to offer. This picturesque Leinster county is home to some of the most beautiful sceneries in Ireland. Aside from the marvelous natural wonders, which are expected of the Irish countryside, Carlow is also proud of its list of impressive man-made attractions and the thousand years’ worth of history that come with them.
Carlow, also known as “The Dolmen County” is home to archaeological wonders, astounding castles and manor houses, and serene gardens that are all worthy to be discovered. Since the county is small, there’s a great chance these tourist spots are easily accessible from your hotel in Carlow. The county is also a great jumping-off point for discovering Ireland’s best off-the-beaten-track destinations.
Discover Carlow: Here are 9 of the best historical, man-made attractions to visit during your Irish trip.
1. Brownshill Dolmen
Want to know why Carlow is called “The Dolmen County”? It houses Brownshill Dolmen, a magnificent megalithic portal tomb made with granite capstone. This renowned prehistoric site in Carlow is the largest of its kind in Europe, weighing over 100 tons.
Brownshill Dolmen is a must-visit destination for any antiquarian or archaeology geek. More than just a postcard-worthy scenery, the dolmen has a rich history dating from the Neolithic period (between 4000 and 3000 BC). It’s never been excavated but it’s speculated to have been constructed using ropes, man-made ramps, and manpower. It’s also thought that religious rites, and possibly even human sacrifices, were performed in the dolmen circa 2500 B.C.
2. Haroldstown Dolmen
While Brownshill Dolmen is the most famous pre-historic wonder in Carlow, it’s not the only archaeological site you can visit. Carlow is home to a couple of stones that bear historical significance. Haroldstown Dolmen is one of them
This prehistoric tomb is another well-preserved example of a portal dolmen. It consists of two slightly tilted capstones supported by 10 vertical stones, 2 of which acted as the tomb’s door.
3. Clonmore Triple Bullaun Stone
Clonmoure Cluain Mór Meadhoc (which means “Mogue’s large meadow”) is a little village in the northeast of County Carlow. It is home to the triple bullaun stone, a large natural stone in situ with three hollows, scooped out and used as a “mortar and pestle”. It was used for pounding ingredients in pre-historic times.
4. Clonmore village’s ancient tombs
Clonmore, the same village that houses Triple Bullaun Stone, is also home to several ancient graveyards, chapels, and ruins. One of the attractions is the Mission Cross, a 7 feet 3 inches-tall cross that was believed to be standing on the spot of the ruins of a small church. Another must-visit is the Ancient Cemetery, surrounded by celtic crosses, graves, slabs, and tombs.
5. Cloch-a-Phoill, Ardristan
Cloch-a-Phoill is a massive stone of great antiquity. It’s believed to have once been a part of a megalithic tomb. For over 2,000 years, it was believed that sick infants would be restored to health if they would pass through the six-inch hole.
6. Carlow Castle
A fan of incredible Irish castle ruins? Add this 13th-century castle found near the River Barrow to your photo collection.
Carlow Castle is one of the most important Anglo-Norman castles in Ireland. While you can only see its limestone relics today, it’s great to learn that the bygone castle was once a strong military fortress that withstood repeated attacks in 1494 and 1641.
Aside from the invasions, the battered castle was a result of a busted revamp project by a doctor who tried to remodel the castle into an asylum in 1814. Today, only the Western wing of the castle still stands but this doesn’t take away its historic feel.
7. Duckett’s Grove
Duckett’s Grove, a Gothic revival-style castle, is among the finest and most fascinating ruins in Ireland. It was the home of the Duckett family from the 18th century to the early 20th century. In 1933, a fire broke out and destroyed much of the estate’s interior.
Even in ruin, the surviving walls, towers, and turrets of Duckett’s Grove Walled Gardens and Pleasure Grounds create a romantic scenery, making it one of the most photographed historic buildings in the county. It was also a shooting location of two international films and a go-to destination for paranormal activities.
8. Altamont House and Gardens
Ireland has a wealth of grand houses with picturesque gardens. Carlow has its fair share of these grandiose estates.
Though the 1700s Altamont house is historic and has an old-world charm to it, the main attraction here has always been the gardens. Altamont Gardens, often referred to as “the jewel in Ireland’s gardening crown”, is a must-visit during a clear, sunny day. The gardens are surrounded by oak trees, which are estimated to be over 500 years old (way older than the house).
Altamont Gardens also include an ice age glen, bog garden, an arboretum, with stunning views of Mount Leinster, Blackstairs Mountains, and the Wicklow Mountains.
9. Huntington Castle
The well-preserved 1625 Huntington Castle, also known as “Clonegal Castle” proudly stood the test of time. It was constructed by Sir Laurence Esmonde in the early 17th-century and has been standing firm and tall ever since.
Sign up for the 45-minute tour of the castle and you can step inside to witness its impressive features: Georgian terraces, Jacobean hall, castellated Victorian extensions, and even a spooky temple in the basement. Outside, you may enjoy the 500-years-old gardens and even use them for your Carlow wedding location.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a passionate travel blogger who loves street photography, food trips, and writing articles about travel, food, and lifestyle. To know more about hotels and travel blogs, you may visit Woodford Dolmen Hotel Carlow.